Mother: I do regret on requesting to my daughter to abandon from school

Posted March 12, 2012 from Cambodia

Because of poverty and unawareness of the value of education, mothers may make decisions which affect the future of their children. After seeing the results of this decision a mother can feel hurt and regret. Is the tension mistake made by them? It is true that some mothers sell their daughters for money but it’s only a small percentage. A mother wholeheartedly always wants what is best for her children, but sometimes life circumstances force them to do otherwise. Another reason may be that in order to secure a good living for the family and mother, daughters who are considered the potential person to earn income for family must abandon their studies to help their family and mother with housework and earning money

Many female students have to abandon their study to work in a garment factory, or seek illegal work abroad, and help parents to do home duties. At the present time, some abandon school due to their family not having enough income for daily meals, books, uniforms, transportation and extra classes. The daily costs of attending the secondary school are main challenges for the children and their family, especially for poor families. In Cambodian society nowadays, parents (especially mothers) are aware of the importance and value of education, and they are committed to encouraging their children to finish at least to grade 9, and even go on to university. Mothers especially understand very well the difficulties her children will face. They wish for their daughters to be strong enough to survive by themselves and do not want their daughters to rely on husband anymore.

Cambodia has achieved a remarkably high net enrollment ratio for primary school (95%), although the NER for secondary falls precipitously lower (32%). Despite improvements in recent years in the areas of access and quality of education in Cambodia, dropout rates hover around 8% in Grades 1-6, and in lower secondary school they rise sharply, to 20% in Grade 7, 16% in Grade 8, and 20% in Grade 9, with increasing disparities between urban and rural areas. Key indicators associated with dropout overage enrollment, absenteeism, repetition, poor learning achievement are also problematic.

Kampong Speu Province has one of the highest drop-out rates in Cambodia. While visiting and waiting for farmers to come in from the field, a family (who were mostly female farmers) from Ampel Pok village, Bor Set district, Kampong Speu province, arrived home, and they seem surprised to see me. One older woman named Sarom has been walking slowly with a tired face, but came forward to greet me. Her daughters, who walked along with her from the field, separated to prepare food and see children. I introduced myself to her and asked her a few questions. Mrs. Sarom told me with a smile that she has 4 daughters and 3 sons.

Only her sons were given the priority to go to school because of the conservative thought that sons are able to pursue their study to a higher level, but a daughter should not be much educated because sooner or later she will marry and her husband will take care of her, “I used to think a daughter should not be well educated, as she will have a husband to serve her, but sons should be (educated).”

However, she continued to answer the following question with sadness, and her face dropped down when she explained that she thinks she has done the wrong thing for her daughters, and she blamed herself for being the one who had damaged her daughter’s future. She regretted the decision she made to end her daughters’ education, and the result has not lead to what she wanted for her daughter, as she still became a farmer like her and has no skills to improve her life. She claims that she has promised to send her grandchildren to school to get a graduate degree no matter how hard it is, because what she has learned from previous experience has made her suffer already “If my daughters continued their study, my daughter wouldn’t face such difficulties like me. Being a farmer is not as easy as you think. I will not let my grandchildren drop out from school like my children. I extremely pity and regret my daughter”

Her neighbour named Chanreun explained to me that she really would love to allow her children to go to school, but she did not have enough financial support for her children as she is poor, and absolutely needs children to help to earn money for living. This basic need pushed her to stop her children from studying and send them to work in a garment factory when other villagers do so. Her living standard is now a bit upgrade compared to before. At the same time, she confessed that even though it is improved some, it is not very much and her children’s health is getting worse “we have earned a little bit more but the situation for my children is not good because we are working harder. I really pity my daughter”.

Women are entering the global labour force in record numbers, according to a new report from the International Labour Office, but they still face higher unemployment rates, lower wages and make up 60 percent of the working poor. They are overwhelmingly represented, and some would say, exploited, in low-paying jobs in the garment industry – but that may change with a little help from Cambodia’s Government and some star power. The government allowed company who assist to bring Cambodian worker and provide kind of vocational training to worker to work at aboad like to Korea and Malayia. The cambodia government try seek for investments from abroad as well as encourage Cambodian entrepreneurs to invest in Cambodia on industrial sectors and tourism sector in order to catch workers to get more jobs. For some of the women who drop-out from school, the situation for them becomes worse when some of them become immigration workers in Malaysia. About 20% of Malaysia’s total workforce is victims of sexual trafficking, and many are forced to marry foreign men like Korean’s. For some of the migrant domestic workers, after their return back to their own country, they suffer a lot from work exploitation, human rights abuses, and a wide of range of other abuses. Their affect them psychologically, and many loose, their memories and fall sick.

Victim women (both mother and daughter) who are not literate are normally easy to cheat by the ‘love breaker’ and trickster, who promise to find them a better job with high wages and a match with a foreign husband who is rich. Even though this happens to the daughters, the mother also gets very hurt while their children are abused and violated by others. She cannot change the situation, but she does feel regret about this. Should we blame the mother for this?

Socheata, Samrom’s the daughter and garment worker, are receiving $60 per month, and told me that she had to drop out of school when she was in grade 3 to help family. Later on, she came to Phnom Penh following her neighbor’s girls who have been working in garment factory. She spent only $20 on food and $2 to contribute to sharing a room with her roommate. She kept the rest for her family and the study expenses of her sibling. She feels regret that she had to drop out too but she did pity her mother both doing both the housework and earning money, as she is the older sister in family. “I have no choice because I was born in the poor family. I don’t blame my parents but I kind of disappointed with myself (want to work like you and go to study in Phnom Penh).”

Due to a lack of resources and minimum government funding for schools in Cambodia, there is a shortage of teaching material and school facilities. Some of the schools are quite far from students’ home that is another reason for students to drop out of school. The country's teachers, who are grossly underpaid, have resorted to charging their students unofficial fees. Many are spending less time in the classroom as they seek additional employment elsewhere. Almost 20 % of students in urban areas, and 26 % in rural areas, have repeated at least one grade at school. From every one thousand students who begin primary school, only twenty-seven will graduate from upper secondary school. Girls, students from remote areas, and the poor are all grossly underrepresented in education statistics. With these significant problems as a backdrop, and the school-age population continuing to grow, the Cambodian government still denies the education sector the funding it needs to realize its important role in Cambodian society. That’s reasons made students feel not concentrate in their study and face with many challenges both in school and family. They feel no more commitment to reach the benefit of study while corruption and discrimination was occurred in their school.

The government urges people to register their children for school and they build many academic buildings nearly everywhere, but the above problems are still issues for rural people as poverty is not well improved. In order to reduce the dropout rate, the government has to strengthen on poverty reduction. As corruption does exist in school, those are come from poverty base on teacher’s salary are in lower condition which need to be improved. Cambodia has anti-corruption laws and now we are implementing them. Meanwhile, government should be focusing mainly on creating more jobs, providing more vocational training, and creating more places to sell the products of the farmer. However, the country’s new Education Strategic Plan 2009-2013 has introduced core indicators related to student dropout, such as the number of districts with rates meeting or surpassing 80 percent and the number of complete schools with a repetition rate below 10 percent. SDPP interventions to reduce dropout are also relevant to improved cycle completion and reduced repetition. SDPP will also be supporting MoEYS (Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport)’s efforts to achieve Cambodia’s Millennium Development Goal 2: Universal Access to Basic Education by 2015.

I would like to make some suggestions about the lack of awareness for the need of education for sustainable development, as it is significantly important for Cambodia amidst the financial poverty it faces. The priorities for the nation’s children dwell mainly as a contributor to the family’s finances and not the establishment of their education. Parents play a very important role in encouraging their children to pursue their study until at least grade 9 which is the basic standard for reading, writing and analytical skills. At least then they could use critical thinking so as not to be tricked by others.

All mothers want to see their daughters live in happiness and harmony, even if they have to work hard and face some difficulties, so the children have to help their mothers in return, but they should make sure that it’s a long term solution, not only short term help. Only education can allow the children to repay their parents through studying hard until they get a very well paid job. So, that is we can help our parents without risks. We hear from little girl in Kampong Speu province, Srey Neang, 6 years old girl, that she can have ambitious to be a doctor so that she can take care of her mother and other people too “ Yes sister, I will never give up…I want to be a doctor…to treat my mom’s illness”.


In order to reduce school dropout rate in Cambodia, we should: - There is a continued need to reinforce access to and provision of effective basic education services, so that students who enter the system in Grade 1 remain and progress in school and complete their basic education, so they have the foundational knowledge and skills needed to pursue additional education, training or employment. - Government have to work to reduce dropout among students in grades 7, 8, and 9, in selected schools - NGOs and international sectors have to work in close collaboration with the MOEYS, including the Department of Planning, Provincial Primary and Secondary Education Offices, Provincial Teacher Training Colleges, Provincial Inspectorate Offices, and district-level counterparts. - Widely announce to parents to understand about the value of education through TV, radio, directly educated village by village - Reduce the poverty line to 15% with project ‘win win’ strategy following the CMDG by 2015 which can improve the poor’s living standard - Programs broadcast on television should be educational, to encourage students love of learning. It is better to promote this then promote singing and dancing contests.

Voices of Our Future 2012 Assignments: Feature Stories

Comments 11

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Kat Haber
Mar 13, 2012
Mar 13, 2012

Sarvina Kang, World Pulse 2011 from Cambodia, knows the difficults-and joys of staying in school.

In preparation for the next module in digital storytelling, I commend to you TEDWomen.

Yes, sister, I hear you never giving up.

Valéria Barbosa
Mar 14, 2012
Mar 14, 2012

Mother of emergency.

Knowledge is power. But to have the power you need to study. being a woman and create woman, imagine the pain in the future to realize: That neither gave to his daughter knowing, and not even the power to have. It is a cycle in the emergency of life, survive! It numbs the pain that day, otherwise ignore. Where is the knowledge? Who decides who is going to learn? Charge state family a minimum, the right to learn. It is a cultural issue. We must say no. Start new life and give women the right to education.

Friend I know what is rejected as being a woman. I had to throw my 49 male chromosomes and scream out strong to survive, fight against the established and show that I could just because I wanted to be. But I fought only against my father. Was it not a cultural one. It takes great strength.

I believe in the power of education and a government able to envision a future for their nation, not sticking to issues of genres. Is freeing to know.

May God enlighten you always.

Rachael Maddock-Hughes
Mar 15, 2012
Mar 15, 2012

You make a very strong point that keeping children in school is not just about improving access to education, but address poverty reduction as well. I like your idea about strengthening support for farmers and I had no idea there was corruption by teachers charging students fees when school is supposed to be free. Obviously the issue of poverty affects not only potential students, but teachers as well.

Keep up the great work!


Mar 16, 2012
Mar 16, 2012

Education is key in development and the very reason it should be accorded the highest priority. It has direct effect on all the other indicators such as poverty, health status, empowerment etc.

Thank you for sharing the very important information

Mar 16, 2012
Mar 16, 2012

Dear all,

I'm really delighted to see your comments and encouragement. Your comments are inspired me to enjoy writing news and expose about Cambodia issue especially related to women. Many thanks!

Faithfully yours, Malin

Patricia Finnegan
Mar 18, 2012
Mar 18, 2012

Dear Malin, Thank you for your well-written article about girls' education in Cambodia. Living in poverty, what a terrible choice for a mother to have to make. It's sad that when we know the way out of poverty is education, but being in poverty keeps these girls from getting an education. I like your ideas fo action and change, especially about the need to get the word out, using many varied methods of communication. I wish you the best in continuing your ownn education and helping other mothers have hope for their daughters. Pat Finnegan USA, Minnesota

Elaine Millam
Mar 19, 2012
Mar 19, 2012

Dear Malin:

I am touched by your article and clearly agree there is so much we need to change in the world to help break the poverty cycle and raise high the importance of education. You have done a great job of raising the issues that surround the poverty cycle in Cambodia. It reflects the same issues in other countries as well. I, too, know that mothers always want the best for their children--sons and daughters. It is heart-wrenching to have to make the decisions that hurt the daughters and keep them trapped in similar situations as their mothers. Only by making all of our voices heard, can we expect to see the rest of the world take action to help.

Thank you for sharing a most critical story that helps others better understand the traps of poverty.

Blessings, Elaine

Tipo Mai
Mar 24, 2012
Mar 24, 2012

I am touched by your article especially the fact that mothers sacrifice their own daughters and force them to become labourers at such a tender age only for the daughters to fall sick and the whole family still remains impoverished. Although we still have some people with the same mentality in my country, over the years with the empowerment of women through education, most parents have come to realise the importance of educating the girl child as an effective means of reducing poverty. as they say in my language "Mwana musikana haakanganwi vabereki" " a girl child does not forget her parents" . So now people find it more sensible to send their daughters to school because they will always remember to assist their parents once their financial means improve. Maybe this could be a great example to use although I still believe girls should receive an education whether or not they will assist the family.



Shirley Clark
Mar 25, 2012
Mar 25, 2012

Hi Malin,

I just finished reading my "assigned" article this month and it was also on the importance of education. Your story showed how the cycle often continues for those without access to or an understanding of the value of formal learning. You brought to our attention such an important story, one that plays out in different forms in many countries.

Thank you for sharing and educating me!



Mar 27, 2012
Mar 27, 2012

Thank you for your hard work on this feature story. You've done a great job of showing the world one of the challenges faced by families in Cambodia. It's heart-breaking to think of a mother having to make the choice to end her daughter's schooling because she needs help with farming or earning income for the younger children... only to live with regrets later in life. It's almost like she is trapped in a spot where there is no good choice. Education is one key way to escaping these challenges, but it's a stepping stone along a longer path, as you know and show here.

Well done! Scott

Apr 12, 2012
Apr 12, 2012

You did a wonderful job of presenting all the challenges faced. They seem overwhelming, but your article is written with an optimism that is inspiring. It is a terrible trade-off to make education versus helping the more immediate needs of food, shelter, and health. But it is through voices and determination such as yours that changes will slowly occur.

Wishing you and all the sisters in Cambodia the best!